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September 15, 2013

Utes drop heartbreaker

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - All the ingredients were in place for Utah to complete a dramatic rally to win a Pac-12 opener for the first time in school history. The Utes rallied from a slow start on offense to make several big plays and force overtime.

In the end, Utah could not overcome its own miscues and an inability to stop Oregon State from moving the chains at crucial moments.

Sean Mannion completed 27 of 44 passes for a career-high 443 yards and five touchdown passes - tying the school record - to lift the Beavers to 51-48 victory over Utah on Saturday night. Mannion's final pass was a 6-yard game winner to Brandin Cooks in overtime.

Cooks finished with 210 yards and three scores on nine receptions. The Beavers (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12) overcame the loss of Storm Woods to a frightening neck injury and opened conference play with a road win.

"We didn't get it done and it is a tough one to swallow," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Travis Wilson passed for 279 yards and ran for 142 and three touchdowns while rallying the Utes (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) from 17 points down to tie the score at 45-45 on a 9-yard run with 21 seconds to play.

James Poole had a career-high 117 yards rushing and Dres Anderson had 101 yards receiving but the Utes couldn't overcome Wilson's three interceptions.

"We never gave up on offense," Wilson said. "I tried to make plays and make the game as close as I could, but fell short. Our team showed heart and battled to the end, but just fell short."

The weary OSU defense, which gave up 539 yards, rallied in overtime and forced a 41-yard field goal by Andy Phillips on Utah's only possession.

Mannion converted two crucial fourth downs in the fourth quarter and found Cooks for the game winner in overtime. The pass was tipped, but Cooks got under the ball in the end zone. He stole the role of hero that Travis Wilson had tried to claim in the fourth quarter.

"It's a play we worked on all week," Mannion said. "Not my proudest throw ever. But, shoot, if it's a game winner, we'll take it."

On fourth-and-nine from the OSU 22-yard-line, Mannion completed a 13-yard pass to Richard Mullaney. The drive culminated in an 18-yard touchdown reception by Cooks. A two-point conversion pass to Conner Hamlett gave OSU a 45-38 lead with 2:29 to play in regulation.

Earlier in the quarter, on fourth-and-1 at their own 45, the Beavers used razzle-dazzle to keep their advantage. Mannion pitched the ball to Terron Ward, who threw it back across the field to the quarterback, who in turn launched it 48 yards to Brandin Cooks. The play led to Romaine's 20-yard field goal, his third of the game.

"We actually had a different play until the last minute," Mannion said. "It was an 11th hour thing where we came in with a different play."

With 8:12 remaining, Storm Woods launched himself awkwardly into the path of a Utah blitzer and looked as if he injured his neck. He didn't move for several minutes as both teams watched pensively on bended knees. Woods finally gestured positively with his right hand as he was loaded in an ambulance. No official word from OSU updated his condition by early Sunday morning.His absence inspired Oregon State to keep going in the final minutes.

"We had to finish that for him," Cooks said. "We just knew that Storm would want us to fight. He wouldn't want us to go down."

Mannion needed every one of his pinpoint passes to overcome the emergent Utah offense and the stingy Ute run defense that allowed just 48 yards on 28 attempts.

When Wilson's arm failed him, he became a running quarterback and a very effective one.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder used his long stride to run and dive for a 24-yard touchdown - his fourth rush of the 85-yard drive - with 4:25 to play. He added another score on a quarterback draw with 21 seconds remaining to tie the score at 45-45.

"We've been in games like this here and lost," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "It was great to finally win one."

Sean Martin intercepted Wilson on the first drive of the second half and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. The Utes didn't waste much time (1:17) on the ensuing possession, rolling up most their yardage on the ground and culminating on a 35-yard TD run by Wilson on the zone read - a play that had been stuffed most of the first half.

The next time the Utes got the ball, they mixed the run and pass effectively and scored again on a 1-yard plunge by Poole.Utah was driving again in OSU territory and eyeing its first lead when Steven Nelson jumped a slant route and grabbed an acrobatic interception - the first of his two picks. The next play, Cooks turned a short reception into a 55-yard touchdown and OSU led 34-24.

"Certainly, the game is not Travis Wilson's fault," Whittingham said. "We don't need to paint that picture at all. That's far from it. He's the guy that kept us in the game."

Cooks' 200-yard game is the eighth in OSU history and the first since Sammie Stoughter had 223 yards against Washington on Oct. 14, 2006.

The last time Oregon State won in Salt Lake City was a 24-21 victory in 1968.

The Utes hadn't surrendered more than 50 points since TCU beat Utah 55-28 in 2009.


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